PRO CUP LEFTOVERS: CONCORD by Matt Kentfield
Fogelman, Butler, Andrew Rogers, Mason & More
NICE REBOUND FOR JAY FOGELMAN

In racing, if you run up front on a consistent basis, it’s never a shock to leave a racetrack with a top-five or top-10 finish.  Jay Fogelman has been one of those drivers in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Southern Division that have always been in contention to a solid finish.
So far in 2006, however, Fogelman has run into a dry spell combined with a whole lot of bad luck.  The theme seemed to be continuing at Concord Motorsport Park on Saturday when Fogelman qualified 18th for the Greased Lightning 250.  With his car’s sponsor also sponsoring the night’s race, Fogelman was focused on reversing the frustrations of late in the race.  He did exactly what he wanted to do, as Fogelman quickly moved into the top-10 and got as high as fifth when the checkered flag flew. 

The fifth-place finish was a nice rebound for Fogelman, but it should not be a shock that he ran so well.

had a second place car.  We could’ve had a winning car.  It definitely is bittersweet.  It’s good that we’re running up front but it stinks that we can’t finish there.”

BACKUP NOT A PROBLEM FOR DANGE EITHER

Like his fellow young hotshoe Joey Logano, Dange Hanniford’s Concord experience got off to a frustrating start.  Both drivers suffered engine problems in practice and had to switch to a backup cars.  Hanniford bounced back from his adversity in practice to a solid seventh-place finish despite several run-ins with lapped traffic during the race.

“It’s been a long day,” said Hanniford.  “We unloaded the primary car and had motor problems right off the bat.  We had to go to a backup car.  We qualified 10th and got messed up in some lapped traffic.  That was the story of the night.  We fell back and tried to stay out of trouble the rest of the night.”

TOP-10 RUN SPOILED FOR BUTLER

Saturday’s race was a series of ups and downs for 21-year-old Brett Butler. The overwhelming positive was that Butler ran as high as sixth during the grueling 250-lap race. The down was that because of contact from another competitor he wasn’t able to finish there, leaving Concord with an 18th place finish.



Jay Fogelman's #4 races along with CE Falk.
(Kathy Bond photo)
“Everybody thinks we came from nowhere tonight,” said Fogelman.  “Nobody keeps up with your team like you do.  I’ve had this good of a car for the last three weeks.  Actually, we’ve had a better car than this lately.  We’ve just had things happen.  I made a mistake and came down pit road too early at Montgomery and we wrecked the other week while running fifth.  This team is running stronger and I’m looking forward to finishing the deal.  We’ve got good racecars it’s just a matter of finishing.”

While running fifth in the closing laps, Fogelman had a perfect view of the Clay Rogers and Shane Huffman battle for the lead.  As Huffman and Rogers banged fenders on the last lap, Fogelman was watching with eyes wide open in case he needed to dodge some carnage.

“I wasn’t good enough to run with those guys up front, but I was watching them to see what was going to happen.  We finished where my car cold finish, but I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with those guys ahead of me.  My plan still was to sit back a couple of car lengths to see if they’d end up crashing each other and maybe I could pick up a couple spots.”


A LITTLE BUMP AMONG FRIENDS FRUSTRATES BAYNE
Walking around the pit area before or after a Pro Cup Southern Division race you’ll be bound to see rookie Trevor Bayne hanging around Shane Huffman.  The two have developed a friendship through the first few races of the 2006 season.  Huffman has taken Bayne under his wing in the youngster’s freshman season and Bayne has relied on the advice from the former champ.

Their friendship hit a snag on lap 137 on Saturday night when Huffman tagged Bayne’s bumper.  Huffman was penalized to the end of the longest line by Pro Cup officials for his role in the incident, but it was a good run ruined for Bayne.

Bayne (#29) couldn't make the pass of Andrew Rogers for second. (Bond Photo)
“We had a good run going, we really did,” said Bayne.  “We had an awesome pit strategy, that’s what got us up there.  We had a top-10 car but we couldn’t get into the top-five because it’s so hard to pass at this place.  We got up there by following Clay Rogers through the field and we got up to second and third.  Clay passed Andrew Rogers for the lead but I couldn’t follow him through.  Andrew moved up so I couldn’t get around him on the outside and that let Shane catch me.

“As soon as Shane caught me I knew that he was on the move.  He told me that he was going high and my car slid up and he got into me a little bit.  Me and him are friends but it still happened.  I hate that it happened, though.  We just had to make the best of it from there.”

There were still another 100 laps remaining for Bayne to come from the back, but further contact later in the race put an end to his progression and the 15-year-old had to settle with a 14th place finish.

“We went to the rear after we got spun out, and Shane proved that you can come up from the back of the pack and win so who’s to say that we couldn’t do it.  We came passed a bunch of cars on the outside.

The Greased Lightning 250 was the first time Bayne had competed at Concord with the Pro Cup Series but he is no stranger to the tricky half-mile tri-oval.  Bayne won last year’s Allison Legacy Series race at Concord that was a preliminary event to last year’s Pro Cup race there.  The track may be the same, but Bayne is not shy about admitting that the Pro Cup cars are a whole different animal at Concord.

“I won here last year and I set the track record here in the Allison Legacy Series.  I ran an 18.44 to set the track record and pole speed for the Pro Cup cars was 16.63.  The hardest part for anybody no matter how many laps you have here is to figure out how to get through turn one and two.  You have to drive the car wide open through the dogleg and I just had to do it.  It’s mentally exhausting to keep reminding myself to hold it wide open, but that’s the only way to get around that dogleg.”

A-ROG GETS SEASON BACK ON TRACK

Andrew Rogers’ season got back on track Saturday night at Concord Motorsport Park (NC).  After three straight top-10 finishes to start off the 2006 USAR Hooters Pro Cup season, Rogers hiccupped a bit when bad luck forced him to a disappointing finish in the last race on the schedule at Peach State Speedway (GA), where he finished 25th.

There would be no such disappointment at Concord, however, as the driver of the #81 Termidor-sponsored entry for Knight’s Racing led several laps in the middle stages of Saturday’s race before crossing under the checkers in the 10th position.

The Termidor #81 team goes to work on Andrew Rogers' machine. (Bond photo)
“Runs like we had tonight are great for our team morale,” said Rogers.  “Coming in here and getting another top-10, especially after the way we ran at Peach State last time out, we’re happy.  These kinds of runs are more than what we’re capable of doing.  They’re what we’re supposed to be doing.  I want to run in the top-10 every weekend.  The top-10’s are good and I know that the top-fives and wins will come from there.  If we keep biding our time we’ll get there.”

“All in all, we led for a while and got a little more TV time.  Another top-10, we’re really going in the right direction.  Hopefully we can go on to the next race at Lakeland.  That will be a good race for us.  We had a good run there earlier in the year. We had a nice top-10 there last time and hopefully we can get out of there with a top-five or even a win.”

LOGANO'S BACKUP IS NO SLOUCH

As the field of USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series competitors drove beneath the opening green flag at Concord Motorsport Park (NC) Saturday evening, Joey Logano was one of the drivers just happy to see the race finally get going.  It wasn’t only because it was the commencement of the home race for his Joe Gibbs Racing Oil team but because he and everyone involved with the #51 Chevrolet had already been through the ringer before the first lap even began.


Joey Logano (51 Photo).
Logano fought through mechanical problems in practice, having to switch to a backup car before qualifying, and more troubles before time trials and was still able to qualify second and finish fourth in the Greased Lightning 250.

“This was definitely the weirdest day I’ve ever had at the racetrack,” said the 15-year-old two-time Pro Cup winner.  “We go out in practice and we’re in the top-five in speeds but then we have an engine problem that forces us to go to a backup car.  Then before qualifying we have a throttle linkage problem.  We were still able to qualify second which was pretty cool for only having five laps of practice on the car.

““In the race we didn’t have the car that could win the race but we had a solid top-five car which was great considering we had just a little bit of practice and all the problems that we had earlier in the day.  This team really worked hard today to get this fourth place finish tonight.”

He cruised in third before being dropped to fourth by Huffman on lap 200, but a battle among the top-two allowed Logano to close up to the leaders.  Bobby Gill made an attempt at the lead, only to be held off by Clay Rogers, forcing Gill to slide back and into a battle with Logano for third.  Over the final laps, Logano and Gill raced side-by-side fighing for the territory while Huffman and Rogers put on a battle of their own for the race win.

“That was a lot of fun racing with Bobby there at the end.  I could get underneath him every lap then he’d be able to get back around me off the corners.  He’s a great racer, so are those other guys that finished ahead of me. 

“When I saw Rogers and Huffman battling I was thinking maybe something would happen between them and I’d have to keep my head up, but I was still battling with Bobby Gill and I was working too hard to hold him off.  I couldn’t get by him when the race ended, but we’re happy leaving here with a fourth place finish.  After the kind of day we started with, I’m really happy with fourth and I had a lot of fun tonight.”

BRUISED AND BATTERED, LEONE STILL HAPPY

It’s hard to find someone with a wider smile after finishing 16th than Kirk Leone.  Sixteenth in itself is a respectable finish, but to do it with the amount of damage that Leone’s #52 had is borderline remarkable.  Leone’s car had no front end sheet metal and dents and bangs all over the body at the fall of the checkers but he was still able to hang on to the lead lap the entire night.

Kirk Leone's car pre-Concord beatdown. (51 Photo)
“When I got out of the car I couldn’t believe how bad it was,” said Leone.  “I was amazed that we were able to hang onto the lead lap.  We lost about three positions in those last 10 laps so we were running better than we finished.  The car was pushing so bad that I got up and into the wall one time and lost a few positions but we stayed right there with them the entire night.

It may not have looked pretty, but Leone’s car handled even uglier than it looked after contact with another competitor early in the Greased Lightning 250 at Concord.  Leone’s crew ripped off the front end sheet metal and worked diligently to get the car in as best shape as possible without losing a lap.  When he did get back on the track, the car was a handful.

“We tore the whole front end off the car and it really tells you how important air is on the body of these cars because I had such a bad aero push and that’s what hurt us the worst.  The car was awfully fast and hooked up good before we got into the wreck, then after we got into the wreck the car was just trying to lift me off the ground especially going down the dogleg where you’re carrying so much speed.  By the time I got into turn three, I was carrying so much speed that it felt like the car was trying to come off the track.  I just had to change my line and make it work.

“Our luck has got to turn around pretty soon.  We’re a very competitive team for being an independent team and I’m looking real forward to our luck changing so that those guys up front will see a whole lot of the #52 for the rest of the season.”

MASON GETS THE HANG OF CONCORD

When Mike Mason relocated to North Carolina from California to chase his racing dream, he hoped for runs like he got on Saturday night.  Mason raced competitively inside the top-10, finishing sixth at a track unlike any he’s seen before.

“I’m excited,” said Mason.  “I don’t owe enough to the guys who work so hard in the shop and at the track for us.  We’re all learning together.  I’m a rookie driver and a rookie team and we’re in it for the same reasons.  This is just my sixth Pro Cup race and I’m learning every weekend.  My guys just told me to save my stuff and save my stuff all night long.  We made a pit stop and that got us stuck in the back a little bit, but the cautions flew just like my Crew Chief wanted them to.  We came back through to the front and kept conserving.
what I did and I just tried to learn from him.  Tonight’s race was a 250-lap learning session.  You’re on pins and needles all 250 laps.  There’s never a dull moment here at Concord but it was a lot of fun.

BAD LUCK BITES BRUNNHOELZL AGAIN

Everything was lining up perfectly for George Brunnhoelzl, III before the green flag flew on the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series Southern Division race at Concord Motorsport Park (NC) on Saturday night.  Brunnhoelzl was making his first start as a part of East Coast Motorsports and as a teammate to Clay Rogers’ #44 entry.  That first start came from the front of the field as Brunnhoelzl took the green in third and cruised around the Concord ½-mile in the opening laps of the Greased Lightning 250.

That’s where this happy story goes awry, however.  The bad luck that plagued Brunnhoelzl during 2005 made a brief reappearance at Concord Saturday, as a rear end mechanical problem forced Brunnhoelzl to retire from the race prematurely.

“I waited all year for this race and it’s tough to know that we had such a great car and it end the way it did,” said Brunnhoelzl.  “This is one of my favorite tracks so it’s tough not being able to finish the race here.  Knowing that we had a car that was good enough to run second makes me feel a little bit better. 

“All that the car needed was a little bit of fine tuning on the pit stop to get perfect and maybe we wouldn’t have
“We lost another lap when we got spun out,” said Butler. “That never fails, we always seem to get spun out. Things just went downhill from there. We tried to keep up with the lead lap guys even though we were a couple of laps down and we were able to do it. I gave everyone as much room as I could but we were able to stay up there.

“It’s getting frustrating to be taken out all the time. It’s very hard to pass here. I know that I’m a rookie but I also know that you can’t drive through somebody’s back bumper. If you’re passing someone just go around them, I’ll give you the outside. But the Aaron’s Dream Machine ran good all night so we can’t complain about that.”



Mike Mason (51 Photo).
“That last restart I lost every gear but fourth at the end and I was really worried if there had to be a green-white-checkered.  Luckily there wasn’t and it stayed green until the end.  We came home with our best finish of sixth and the car’s still straight.”

Mason did exactly what a rookie should do in his first time at Concord.  He followed one of the best on the track through the field, learning as much as he could the entire race.

“When Shane Huffman had to go to the back of the pack and was coming back through, my guys on the radio said that the #88 was coming and to just let him go.  That’s
George Brunnhoelzl III (51 Photo).
Brett Butler's #99 (51 Photo).
Butler started off in the 27th position. A combination of driver and pit strategy enabled Butler to move the Aaron’s Dream Machine up through the field up to the top-10.
“We ran up in the top-10 for a while,” said Butler. “It was great running up there even though the car had bad tires on it. We decided to come in around lap-130 or so and we left a lugnut off and that really ruined our night.”

After going a lap down after the bad pit stop, Butler continued to drive around and keep pace with the leaders while he attempted to get his lap back. On lap 217 another car made contact with him from behind and caused Butler to spin.